Get SF Weekly Newsletters
Pin It

"Black Nativity": Langston Hughes, the Musical 

Wednesday, Nov 27 2013
Comments

Black Nativity Kasi Lemmons' musical drama has a peculiar relationship to its declared source material, the Langston Hughes play of the same name. Langston Hughes exists in the movie's universe, to the extent that teenaged protagonist (Jacob Latimore) is named after him. Growing up poor in Baltimore, the troubled Langston is sent by his struggling mother Naima (Jennifer Hudson) to spend Christmas in Harlem with the grandparents he's never met, the strict Reverend Cornell (Forest Whitaker) and his wife, Aretha (Angela Bassett). He arrives just in time for the annual Christmas Eve performance of Black Nativity at Cornell's church, though the play-within-the-movie doesn't draw heavily from Hughes' play. The picture's main storyline is Langston dealing with his fractured family and learning to make the right choices in life, and while that melodrama doesn't always mesh with the material of the play, during those scenes is when the film really comes alive, particularly in a Wiz-like dream sequence, and thanks in no small part to Mary J. Blige's "Angel" character. But the movie is so earnest, and the performances so joyous, the tonal issues become irrelevant. Black Nativity is also a musical outside the play, and Lemmons wisely gives Hudson verses even when she's geographically far from the action. Hopefully this isn't their last musical collaboration.

About The Author

Sherilyn Connelly

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Slideshows

  • Jack White at the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium
    Jack White and his band performed at Bill Graham Civic Auditorium on Friday and Saturday nights in front of sold out audiences. Jack entertained his fans with music that included songs from his days with The White Stripes, and The Raconteurs, as well as hits from his solo albums; Blunderbuss and Lazaretto. Photography by Sugarwolf.
  • San Francisco Street Food Festival 2014
    The San Francisco Street Food Festival was another success this year. Dozens of vendors with original, unheard-of creations, such as deep fried mac and cheese on a stick, black pea paste pancakes, and Korean quesadillas. Then there was the comfort foods we've grown accustomed to, like creme bruleé, shrimp rolls, and pound cake. Photographs by Mabel Jimenez.

Popular Stories

  1. Most Popular Stories
  2. Stories You Missed